Managing a Deskless Workforce to Success
Editor’s note: ArcLab works alongside Work Tech platforms to help businesses better manage workforces, improve staff performance to achieve more for the business, and digitally transform for the future.
We’re glad to co-author this article with Andy Schmidt, CEO of 6i Communication, the authorised reseller of Beekeeper, an easy-to-use, inclusive and engaging internal communication platform — to share how businesses can better manage a deskless workforce.
It is far too easy to forget about our frontline workers because we’ve “trained ourselves” not to see them every day. Take a guess how many percent of the global workforce do not have a desk?
70 to 80% of workers globally — at least 1.7 billion people — are “deskless” handling jobs that do not require (or allow for) sitting in place.
If that number surprises you, think about all the industries this includes: retail, grocery, healthcare, hospitality, foodservice, construction, manufacturing, logistics and utilities.
These frontline workers have unique job demands, volatile working schedules, demanding customers, long hours standing and little to no access to task-critical information.
Your frontliners should be of primary importance to the business, considering they are often customer facing and your brand ambassadors.
Let’s face it, we see their jobs as routine and low-skilled. For far too long frontline employees just frankly haven’t been treated that well by their employers, or even by society itself.
For 2021, we predict that this Deskless Workforce will undergo an Employee Experience investment renaissance as companies are increasingly recognising the impact technology has on boosting deskless worker productivity, engagement and job satisfaction.
That said, there are still gaps when it comes to giving them that technology they need to do their best work.
Frontline worker characteristics like higher fluctuation, no corporate emails and lower computer literacy widen these gaps further.
Here’s where a lot of companies go wrong — they give desk workers and frontline workers the same tools and basically say, “Make it work.” Don’t fall into this trap.
Because giving your frontline team a tool built for desktop workers is like giving a fisherman a baseball bat. It doesn’t do the job, and quite frankly, it ends up being more of a burden to carry around than a useful tool that makes their life easier.
Frontline workforces have different requirements
Your frontline workers have unique communication needs covering the wide range of linguistic and cultural diversity and therefore require a communication platform built for them.
What if there was a way to connect everyone, monitor engagement, give your valuable frontline employees a voice, share feedback, take fast action with management and run transparent communication campaigns with your entire workforce — on one platform, without sending a single email?
Meet them where they are. With a mobile-first internal communication App that acts as a one-stop shop comes with inline translation features and can integrate with HR, payroll, workforce as well as learning management tools.
The Beekeeper Employee digital hub becomes a place for people, for communications, for recognition, for content and commenting, conversation and collaboration. It can be the primary platform for providing and discussing the strategy — and even refining it. Leaders can communicate the vision, project managers can explain current initiatives, and line managers can get their teams involved.
Given the high cost of recruiting new employees, and the significant amount of employee turnover that exists in many deskless-heavy industries, companies would be wise to consider how better technology might help them improve their ability to attract, connect and retain deskless workers.
You too can transform business agility, alignment and service quality with a single point of contact for your frontline sheroes and heroes.
Effective Communication & Training. For Deskless Workforces
We’ve just learnt about the Deskless Workforce and how their unique needs means companies cannot just provide a ‘desktop’ solution for employee communication. The same principles apply to workforce training, which is important if the business wants to do well.
Traditionally, training has been face-to-face and often time and labour-intensive, especially for onboarding and upskilling rank-and-file employees. We haven’t yet considered that training usually taking workers off the shopfloor, reducing productivity for the firm. Sometimes, as a result, firms skim on workforce training which isn’t a good thing for the organisation, because a poorly-trained workforce is often unproductive.
So the best organisations always invest in workforce training.
However, COVID-19 has made it now impossible to gather 1–200 people in a training room. Even with vaccination rollouts, it is unlikely that we revert to the pre-Covid normals. This means that organisations have to train the workforce more efficiently and effectively.
The way forward for workforce training is to leverage on the power of digital, and to stage out learning, through bite-sized modules, delivered directly to staff devices.
And remember that for the Deskless Workforce — there are no desktop computers or laptops to speak of. Hence, training needs to be designed with the smartphone as the core delivery platform.
Moving training to the mobile space helps businesses to reduce time and cost needed for training. This effectively funds free headcount for the business, through the resource savings and productivity gains.
Importantly, mobile learning can bring great uptick for learner engagement, knowledge retention and most importantly, knowledge application. Some of these knowledge application metrics include — the drop in customer complaints, production errors etc, time spent on tasks. These are very tangible business objective metrics and provides a positive return on training investment.
Do well, do good. For your Deskless Workforce.
This past year has given us a greater appreciation for the dedication and hard work of our frontline workers — our cleaners, transport workers, delivery and supply chain professionals, healthcare heroes and our educators. Virtually all of them are part of the Deskless Workforce.
70% of deskless workers surveyed report that more technology would help them do their jobs better. The parts of their work that they feel would benefit most from additional technology include communications, operations & logistics, onboarding, and training.
Frontline workers just plain deserve better — and they have for a long, long time. They deserve respect, transparency, and real access to economic mobility through professional advancement.
Most importantly, great businesses can only be built by great teams. It’s a win-win.